other major religions, Hinduism has no founder. She has not a sacred book but many. It is estimated that Hinduism has emerged around 2000 BC with the arrival of Indo-European or Aryan, in northern India. It should be noted that Hinduism has not always expressed in its present and it has evolved. Historians call Vedic Brahmanism and the main expressions of worship related to the Vedas as they existed until 4-5th century AD It was then that Brahmanism, ossified by the sacrificial rites and the pervasiveness of the clergy, was challenged. Currents and vishnuïste shivaïste then took a dominant position in the expression of the Vedic religion. These are the Muslims who introduced the word "Hindu" in the 8th century. In the 12th century, the term traditional Sanatana Dharma ("eternal order") appears to refer to Hinduism. Today more than 80% of Indians are Hindus.
sacred are divided into two categories: those forming the thought (text sent by the divine power) and forming the Smriti (text sent by the memory of men).
1. The thought is formed by the four sacred texts of Hinduism: the Vedas.
1. The Rigveda (book of verses)
2. The Yajurveda (book of ritual formulas)
3. The Samaveda (book of songs)
4. The Atharvaveda (book Atharvan)
Of these four books, the Rigveda is the oldest. It was written about 1400 BC This period saw the priests (Brahmins) assert their superiority over other social classes. The Yajurveda and Samaveda is the liturgy itself. They include the verses used by the priests during ceremonies. The Atharvaveda consists of 20 books that combine magic prayers recited for a specific purpose: charms against disease, love spells, for prosperity, for a long life, etc ... Each of the four Vedas is itself divided into four parts which are explanatory texts of the Vedas written in prose :
1. The Samhitas.
2. The Brahmanas.
3. The Aranyakas.
4. The Upanishads.
The Samhitas are collections of base from which flow the other. The most important is the Rigveda Samhita, as it is in this one that priests are the prayers and liturgy used most often. The Brahmanas are prose treatises explanation. They highlight the links between ritual and mythology based on the symbolism. These texts make the sacrifice at the center of the universe works. The Aranyakas are also explanatory text but of a more esoteric. They are called "forest books" because they can not be studied in the village but outside, in recollection. They put into perspective the relationship between the sacrifice, the cosmos and man. The Upanishads are treatises on philosophical inspiration. They reflect the mystery of death and emphasizes the unity of the universe. They put an end to the Vedas.
2. The Smitri consists of various texts inspired by the Vedas. There are treatises on dharma (the foundation of the life of a Hindu): The Dharma Sutras and the Dharma Shastras. They are sort of the Hindu law. One of the most important Shastra is the book of the Law of Manu, whose influence on Hindu life is enormous. Then there are the poetic epics: the Mahabharata and the Ramayana.
The Mahabharata (Epic of the Bharata Dynasty) was written between -300 and 300 years. It is a text of more than 100,000 to writing in Sanskrit.It is the greatest literary world, far ahead of the Greek epics like the Odyssey. The Mahabharata tells the story of the struggle between the Pandavas (Arjuna, Yudhisthira, Bhima, Nakula and Sahadeva), the son of Panu, and their cousins, the Kauravas. The text is deeply imbued with religion and discusses the dharma. Krishna, one of the incarnations of Vishnu , it holds a prominent place. Initially it is one of the heroes of the Mahabharata, an ally of the Pandavas. In an episode recounted in the Bhagavad-Gita (Song of God), Krishna advises Arjuna who despairs at the thought of having to kill his family. It was here that Krishna reveals his divine condition. Arjuna finally win the battle. The Bhagavad-gita is considered sacred by Hindus. His influence is profound because, unlike the Vedas, it is a text accessible to all and not only to upper castes.
The Ramayana was written between 300 and 200 BC is attributed its creation to the sage Valmiki. The story goes that of Rama , son of King ofAyodhya and elder brother of Lakshmana, Bharata and Satrughna. Married to Sita, Rama was the heir of the kingdom. But his stepmother, jealous, arranged for Rama is exiled in the forest with his wife and his brother Lakshmana. During the exile Sita was kidnapped by the demon Ravana, king of Lanka. Combined with an army of monkeys led by Hanuman , Rama fought Ravana, killed him and rescued Sita. All returned to Ayodhya and Rama was crowned king. Rama is regarded by Hindus as the ideal son and husband. Rama is considered an incarnation of Vishnu and the Ramayana is therefore support the worship of Rama. Click here to read a long summary.
Smitri final component of the Puranas have appeared during the reign of Gupta. This is a series of books (typically 18) in which are gathered the myths, legends, genealogies of Hindu gods and heroes. Like the epics, the Puranas are available to all to the point that Puranic mythology to take precedence over the Vedic mythology. The two main gods of the Puranas are Vishnu and Shiva in the Vedas, while they have only secondary roles.Vishnu is the protector and preserver, Shiva is the destroyer. They are associated with Brahma , the creator of the world. In the Puranas, polytheism is more developed than in the Vedas. The most popular of the Puranas Purana is the Bhagavata-dedicated to Krishna .
is crossed by many streams and it takes many forms. There are three major religions: that of Shiva (Shaivism), that of Vishnu (Vaishnavism or the vishnuïsme) and Shakti (Tantrism). Shakti has several names including Kali , Durga and Parvati , wife of Shiva. It is possible to identify common characteristics:
1. First, the recognition of the authority of the Vedas and the Brahmans. Thus, Hindus acknowledge the existence of social classes ( varna ) whose membership is determined at birth. The Hindu population is thus divided into four classes:
The Brahmins (priests).
The Ksatriyas (kings and warriors).
Vaishyas (ordinary people).
This division is derived from the Rigveda says that the Brahmins who came out of the mouth of Purusa the Ksatriyas of his arms, Vaishyas his thighs and Shudras from his feet. These classes are themselves divided into castes ( jatis ). Castes once characterized the social and professional position of an individual. They also define how individuals should behave in a caste deal with religious rituals. Some people are outcasts and are considered "untouchables" (the Dalits ) as unclean. Only the first three classes can study the Vedas and the Brahmans alone can teach. Shudras can instead listen and read the epics and Puranas, and they can practice the major religious rituals. Priests are recognizable sacred thread they wear on the left shoulder. It is a symbol of spirituality is son of three intertwined as the priest made himself by reciting a mantra. When he repeated it 100 times it's a knot in cord and blows it. Thus, when practicing the rituals, it is sufficient to reach these nodes to find the spiritual strength contained in the mantra.
2. The Hindus believe in a chain of reincarnation (samsara ). The conditions of rebirth are determined by karma , that is to say how the previous life took place. The samsara is, in principle, no beginning and no end. The only way out is to attain deliverance ( moksha ) through various means (the margas ) with meditation and devotion. The life of a Hindu is governed by its dharma . It is a kind of code of conduct on which the Indian built his life, convinced he has a destiny defined by its own particular class and caste of birth. The texts on dharma allowed the development of a social doctrine applicable to the three upper classes that divides life into four stages, ashramas . The Hindu will be studying ( brahmachari ), then head of the family ( Grihastha ), then withdraws into the forest in a spiritual contemplation ( Vanaprastha ) and will eventually become an ascetic ( sannyasi ). In addition to the four stages of life, man must achieve four goals ( purushartha ): First follow his dharma . Second seek the artha is the material gain, prosperity. Third seek kama is physical pleasure, sexual. To these three objectives it is therefore add a fourth which is moksha and which, as we have seen, to break the cycle of reincarnation. Many animals and plants are considered sacred. The most sacred of them is the cow . This veneration comes from the interest that was Krishna in cattle. Most Hindus are vegetarians.
3. Hindus believe in one reality, eternal, transcendent and representing all: Brahman (not to be confused with the god Brahma). The universe, and everything in it is an emanation of Brahman. We tend to believe that Hinduism is a polytheistic religion as well as the ancient Greek religion. In fact, the Hindu gods are an emanation of Brahman. It has no attributes, it is without form, unlike the gods who emanate. Hindus believe that Brahman is all of them, it is their soul, the atman . There is therefore identity between the presence of Brahman in the universe and the atman within each individual. The top three divine figures revered by the Hindus are: Brahma , Vishnu and Shiva . They are the Hindu trinity ( Trimurti ). Traditionally, Brahma is associated with the creation, Vishnu and Shiva to the preservation and destruction. Although trimurti assigns a special place to these gods, they are a fundamental part of Hindu religious life. For example Brahma is not worshiped important, and many Hindus do not worship any of the three.
Hindu is centered around a variety of personal or public ceremonies. Worship ( puja ) consists mainly of a succession of daily obligations marked by invocations. At home, the practitioner maintains a sacred fire before which he made offerings to the god invoked. The family can perform the ritual and the sacraments ( samskara ) by a Brahman, whatever their social class. The samskaras mark rites of passage from birth to death, through religious initiation ( upanayana ) boys of the upper classes, and marriage, the most important of all. Funerals are marked by the cremation of the deceased.
Part of worship is held at the temple. The practitioner prays to a deity of their choice to whom the temple is dedicated. He may bring offerings and say prayers. The construction of a temple is not random and comes after scientists astrological and numerological calculations. The space is divided into five parts. In the center of the temple is the "holy of holies" ( garbhagriha ) which is the residence of the god to whom the temple was built, then an internal chamber ( antaral ), a central hall ( mandapa madhya ), a large hall ( maha mandapa ) and a small vestibule ( ardha mandapa ).The "holy of holies" is topped by a dome (the shikara ), the symbol of Mount Meru, mountain mythology that sustains the universe. With few exceptions, and although access to the temple is allowed at all, only Hindus can enter the holy of holies. The faithful wander around it in the direction of clockwise.
The representation of God located in the holy of holies is treated as a people. It is washed, dressed and anointed. During major holidays, the idol, or a copy, came out of the temple on a cart (the rath ) and follows a procession. Access to the temple doors, some of which can be surmounted by a monumental gopura can measure several tens of meters and covered with statuettes of deities. In the most important temples one can find halls ( mandapas ) connected to the center of the temple by walkways, pools where the faithful bathe to purify themselves, monasteries, schools.During worship, Hindus ritually pronounced the syllable "Aum" (the Pranava ). This is a sacred Sanskrit, is the original sound, who has created the world. For others, it represents the Trinity (Brahma, Shiva, Vishnu).
Hindus are many. Their dates are calculated based on the lunar calendar. How they are celebrated may vary from one place to another. Officially, India, there are 16 public holidays. Most festivals are annual but there are more rare as Kumbha Mela held every 12 years. The main parties:
Pongal ( or Makar Sankranti) : In January. This festival is mainly celebrated in the southern Indian rural and lasts four days. The pongal is a dish of rice, sugar, dhal and milk. People wash their homes and decorate them. The third day is marked by the veneration of cattle. The cattle are washed, make-up, adorned with bells and flowers before parading in the streets. We are also seeing the bullfights.
Maha Shivaratri : in February-March. It's the Great Night of Shiva . Hindus celebrate the night when Shiva, in its cosmic dancer (the Nataraja ), performed the Tandava is to say, the dance of creation, preservation and destruction. In temples, the faithful sing, recite prayers, make offerings to the lingam (phallic symbol of Shiva).
Basant Panchami : March. The festival takes place on the fifth day of spring. The yellow color it holds an important place. People wear yellow clothes, offer yellow flowers as an offering. This festival is also dedicated to Saraswati , the wife of Brahma .
Holi : March. This festival is very popular and very exuberant, marks the beginning of spring. On this occasion, Hindus overlap each other with water and colored powders. The entire population participates, young and old. Bonfires are lit to celebrate the destruction of the demon Holika.
Ramanavami : in April. This festival celebrates the birth of Rama , hero of the Ramayana and incarnation ( avatar ) of Vishnu . It is marked by dancing and singing.
Naag Panchami : July / August. This festival is held in honor of the serpent Sesha thousand heads, protector of Vishnu.
Rakshabandham : August. This festival symbolizes the love that is a sister to her brother. The word Raksha means "protection" and Bandham means "links". On this occasion, and after an exchange of sweets, Hindu women offer rope bracelet (the rakhi ) to their brothers or a man they consider their brother. In return, the men promise to protect them.
Janmashtami , in August. This is the birthday of Krishna , the eighth avatar of Vishnu. The image of child Krishna is bathed and placed in a cradle.It also celebrates the love of Radha Krishna door. Women prepare traditional sweets made from milk and butter, favorite foods of Krishna.
Ganesh Chaturthi in September. It is the festival of Ganesh , the elephant-headed god, son of Shiva and Parvati . The celebration is mostly practiced in southern India. Representations of Ganesh are prepared by the faithful for months in advance. At the end of the festivities, the statues and images of Ganesh are immersed in the sea or river. In Mumbai (Bombay), after a procession attended by thousands of faithful, the idols are immersed in the ocean.
Dussehra (Durga Puja or Navaratri)
Dussehra (Durga Puja or Navaratri) : October. This is one of the most important festivals of India. It lasts ten days and has a different meaning depending on the region. To the north it celebrates the victory of Rama over the demon Ravana. During these ten days, the life of Rama is told. On the tenth day ( vijayadasmi ), huge effigies of Rama, Sita and Lakshmana are pitched against those of Ravana, his brother and his son Meghnath Kumbhkarna. These are pierced with arrows ignited and destroyed the cheers of the crowd. In Bengal the festival takes the form of Durga Puja and is dedicated to Goddess Durga . She is Shakti, the cosmic energy that allows the destruction of evil. In Tamil Nadu , the first three days are dedicated to Lakshmi, goddess of prosperity, the next three to Saraswati, goddess of knowledge and arts, and the last three to Shakti (Durga).
Diwali (or Deepavali )
Diwali (or Deepavali ) in October. It's a big celebration. It celebrates the fall harvest. It is also the festival of lights. Deepa means "light" and Avali means "row". It marks the return of Rama after his exile of 14 years and the lights are lit to guide him. Lakshmi (including Mumbai) and Kali(Calcutta) are also celebrated this day there. In the south, Diwali marks the victory of Krishna over the demon Narakasura. Diwali also marks the Hindu New Year. Families the opportunity to clean their houses, wear new clothes, draw designs ( Rangoli ) on walls and sidewalks and detonate fireworks. The festival lasts five days. In addition to these national holidays, there are plenty of local and regional festivals.
Among the most important are: the Feast of the Great Basinand the Chithirai festival at Madurai (Tamil Nadu), the Marathon of elephants in Thiruvananthapuram (Kerala) Amarnath Yatra to Amarnath (Kashmir), the great festival of the chariot in Puri (Orissa) Pooram at Thrissur (Kerala) Onam (Kerala). To these are added pilgrimage festivals ( tirthayatra ) more or less important and whose origin is very old. The reasons why the pilgrims gather in one place are different. These may include banks of a river or a river like the Ganges, places have experienced so-called legendary figures or places where the gods have arisen. India has seven sacred cities ( the tirtha ): Ayodhya (dedicated to Rama), Mathura (Krishna), Haridwar (site where the Ganges emerges from the Himalayas), Varanasi , Ujjain (Shiva), Dwarka (Krishna) and Kanchipuram . Dwarka is one of the cardinal points ( dham ) India's sacred (the east). The other three are north Badrinath, Rameswaram in the south and west of Puri.
Hindus are endless. The pantheon has changed considerably over time. The ancient Vedic gods (Surya, Indra, Chandra, Agni ...) have gradually been replaced in importance by others. Today the cult is organized around a trinity ( Trimurti ) composed by Brahma, Shiva and Vishnu. The gods are associated with female deities of gasoline. The most important of which is Shakti, the Mother Goddess, which can take several forms depending on its function (Paravati, Kali ...). Despite this aspect polytheistic, it is important to remember that all the gods come from a single creative cosmic force: Brahman. Here is a partial list of the most important deities of Hinduism (click on name for more information):